Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon

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Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Delightful, touching, funny - a highly enjoyable book about a sympathetic character with dreadful parents and a dark family secret. Perhaps a tad too long for both the plot and the intended age group, but otherwise a charming read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747589303

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This is a story of how chickens can change your life.

Um... ok!

Chickens, actually, give me the creeps. They taste nice an' all, they give you the makings of delicious omelettes, but they're all squawky, and, well, chickeny. Don begs to differ. He loves chickens. He sees beauty, romance, intelligence, fun, and goodness knows what in chickens. He knows everything there is to know about them. Enough, in fact, to win a prestigious chicken-judging competition in a town whose economy depends upon, you guessed it, chickens.

Don's competition victory is just about the only good thing to ever have happened to him. He's never been popular. Despite years in town, he has no friends. His classmates still contemptuously refer to him as the new kid. He's clever, polite and well-behaved, but his mother does nothing but find fault with him and compare him to his dead sister, Dawn, a talented dancer. His father pretty much ignores him. But when he wins the competition, Don morphs overnight into a person with kudos. Not only does he become the most popular kid in school, but even the adults like him. The movers and shakers in the Horse Island community fall over themselves in competition for eggs laid by Don's chickens.

But just as things are beginning to go well for Don, he finds his birth certificate. And this leads him along a trail of deceptions and family secrets that turn his life upside down.

Oh gosh, this is a wonderfully moving book. Don, the central character, is tremendously sympathetic. He bears his mother's abuse and neglect with such fortitude and humility that it makes you want to cry, or pinch his mother really, really, really hard, or shake his father out of his morose self-pity. Don himself doesn't have any of these negative emotions. He just does his best, carries on and even in his darkest moments, never loses his dignity or sense of hope. I'm making Chicken Dance sound very dour, aren't I? But it isn't dour at all. It's funny and quirky and big of heart. By the end, you are rooting for Don so hard that a tiny twist in the tale quite takes your breath away.

Aimed at the tween market, for children of nine to twelve, Chicken Dance is easy to read, with jokes and situations appropriate for the age group, but not too babyish for older but less confident readers to enjoy. This adult loved it and will almost certainly read it again - for pleasure, not for review. Don is both a reliable and unreliable narrator - like most children, he understands emotions and vibes and atmospheres all too well, but his grasp of events and motivations can be shaky. This makes the book so sympathetic, so attractive, I'll forgive it the length. At over 300 pages, it could have lost at least 50 and retained something tighter and less of an effort for the younger ones. This, however, is a minor pick. Chicken Dance comes very highly recommended.

My thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

If they enjoy kitchen sink drama in this kind of quirky style, they might also enjoy Notes From A Liar And Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko.

Buy Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon at

Buy Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon at


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